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Marketing could make or break your business

January 2020

Marius Greyling, Pula Imvula contributor. Send an email to mariusg@mcgacc.co.za  

Marketing, so important but still an area which many farmers struggle to manage. On many an occasion we have stated that to manage a farm is difficult because of all the risks involved. Marketing management affects the 
final financial results of your business, because of the prices achieved for your products. It could be the make or break of the success of your business.

In the days of controlled marketing, farmers were regarded only as the producers of products. Our farmers of today compete in a free-market system. Farmers are still driven by production, and judge themselves accordingly, but must now attend to the marketing of their products themselves as well. Thus, the responsibility of marketing is now the responsibility of the farmer himself. And, to be a market manager you must be knowledgeable regarding the marketing of your products.

Our farmers of today must realise that the consumer of today is changing his/her preferences when buying products. Many of today’s consumers demand ethical food production because of environmental concerns. They want to know where their food comes from, whether the farmer produced it using environmentally friendly methods, whether the workers received a living wage, whether proper care was taken to ensure food security both in terms of quality and affordability. Farm-to-fork traceability will become a necessity, unfortunately something still lacking in South Africa, compared to many other countries. 

Do you know what today’s consumers are eating? Research in America have shown dietary changes and we can be sure these trends will follow to South Africa. With meat lines the consumption of beef and lamb is down but chicken and turkey are up. The consumption of avocados is up, as well as mangoes. Whole milk consumption is down, yoghurt is up. Health reasons seem to be a major contributing factor towards these changes. Consumers demand healthier food. It is also true that the consumer buys his/her fruit or vegs according to how they look. Consumers find it very difficult to make the adjustment needed to buy a few ugly, but perfectly edible, apples, for example.

The physical aspect of marketing is also changing and as a marketer you need to note these aspects. A major important aspect is consistency. Retailers and customers demand a consistent supply to the market, through good times and bad times. Consistency of supply is fundamental to the marketing of any product.

Consumers today demand clean, fresh, well sized, uniform in colour, shape and size, succulent and free of blemishes products. Harvesting at the correct time is one of the ways to enhance a products appearance. Good-looking products fetch higher prices. Great care should be taken when handling produce at all stages of harvesting, grading, packing and transport.

A new trend developing amongst consumers is a demand for smaller packages of products for the convenience of easier handling and storing. By adding value and exploiting this trend you could enhance your marketing. Take one pocket of oranges weighing 7 kg and costing, say R20 on the market. Divide the contents of the pocket into seven attractive, see-through 1 kg packets and perhaps displaying your logo. Offer each one for R9,99. A possible income of R69,93 compared to R20. Not bad.

What will catch the eye of the buyer? Ask yourself – does my packaging attract attention and still protect the product inside? Are there equal-sized products inside? Do you ensure each degree of ripeness has its own packaging? Is there a bold sticker on each package or prepack to promote your brand?

Farmers will always first and foremost be a producer and production efficiency will always be a key determent of profitability. As a farmer you yourself have control to a large extent over this. However, marketing will determine the price you get for your product and you must manage your marketing with a high degree of efficiency. Producing quality products will make life a little easier. 

A general principle to apply regarding production and marketing– remember to never, ever produce any quantity of a product before the marketing of the product has not been secured. It is very, very important to be able to market your product when it is ready for marketing. Most products have a limited window for marketing.

If you want to learn about the marketing of your products, visit marketing venues such as a silo, livestock auctions, fresh produce markets, abattoirs, and so on. It is important to be familiar with the functioning of these marketing channels. Have you ever spent a day with the vendor to whom you supply vegetables?

Lastly, gather as much information as possible regarding the marketing of your products. Read, attend farmers days, visit other producers. 

We have referred to marketing aspects in general. Bear in mind each product has its own unique requirements regarding marketing to be identified and applied.  

Publication: January 2020

Section: Pula/Imvula